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Gayyash Al 'Aatifa

Monday, February 05, 2007

A Wrong Number

My family, like many, is one that worries. I was in my room reading when my mother's mobile rang last night. It was three in the morning and she was asleep, my father away and my brother sleeping in the bed beside me. I darted quietly to her room and found her squinting into the lit screen of her now silent phone. She couldn't recognize the number so I asked her to hand me the phone so I could call back and see what the deal was. I dialled the number and a quiet young voice answered. "aywa fee 7ad ettasal beena mel raqam da," I said (somebody called us from this number). "ah, di mish nemret mohammed?" (yes, isn't this mohammed's number?) "la2 el nemra ghalat." (no you have the wrong number.) The caller apologised, "ma3lesh byet-haya2li el raqam kan zero etnashar wana darabt zero 3ashra, ma3lesh asfeen." (sorry, i think the number began with 012 and I dialled 010, sorry about that.) "mish moshkela, ma3al salama." (it's ok, goodbye.)

I kept the phone with me and my mother went back to sleep. Minutes later the same number called, ringing only twice. I went and sat in the living room and called back, wondering what to do in case I found the caller to be deliberately bothersome. The person picked up and I said this was the number they had just dialled and that they did not know anyone here. "ana kont batesel be sara, ma3lesh," was the response (I was calling for Sara, sorry). I said there was no Saras here and that it was too late to be calling wrong numbers. I ended my sentence with 'yabni' (son), thinking the caller an insomniac schoolboy. Further apologies were readily provided and I responded "Mashi, khalas yabni, ma3assalama," (Ok, that's fine, good bye). The caller paused before responding with a lighthearted tone "ma3lesh, howa 7adretak leh 3ammal te2ool yabni? ana bint," (sorry but why do you keep saying yabni when i'm a girl). I sensed in the back of my mind a longish sentence about the voices of prepubescent boys being similar to those of women, but opted instead for another "mashi, mish moshkela, ma3assalama" (ok, no problem, good bye). I went back to my room and continued reading with my mother's mobile beside me, worried the person would call again, in which case I would switch the phone off, I decided.

When I was 16 our phone rang and when I picked up it was a woman. I asked who she wanted. She asked who I was. I said she was the one calling so she should tell me her name. Jacqueline, she said, with a sultriness that was almost silly. I thought for a second and figured she wasn't being genuine so I hung up. When I told my father about this he didn't think it was very significant, implying instead that I needn't have ended the conversation so abruptly.